Creating Successful Medical Practice Policies

August 30, 2014

Having a clear process in place to create and implement practice policies is critical. Be sure your staff understands where they fit into this process.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing how practices create, communicate, implement and monitor policymaking. Some have a very specific policy and process to follow, while most often, others come in the form of a frustrated and misunderstood e-mail focused on stopping a continuous problem from happening again.

There are several types of employees in a medical practice, and really, you need each skill set for a fully functioning and operational business. But when it comes to policy making, who makes those decisions? You can raise your hand right now and say "I do," but are you sure? If you have a front/back manager or practice administrator going rogue on you, would you know?  And, from an employee's point of view, when she comes to you multiple times with a problem and you say "I'll get to it," she might be tempted to fix the problem herself.

Oftentimes in a busy practice, policy does not ever seem to land on the front burner, but if you don't address the issue your employees will most likely take matters into their own hands. We've all seen it; heck, we've probably done the same thing at some point in our career. Truth is most employees do not have all the necessary information to make policy changes and decisions. Do they know if whatever policy they want to change or implement has legal ramifications to it? Is it going to cause a major rift in the hierarchy within your organization causing a key employee to resign? These are serious areas to consider.

Another area to consider when implementing a new or updated policy is does it only pertain to the behavior of one employee? If so, a policy change is not warranted, a conversation, however, is. Take the employee aside (never in front of other employees) and have them explain what the real problem is. It could be that there is a lack of communication, or perhaps a new employee has gotten off on the wrong foot with senior employees. I firmly believe that most employees are only trying to streamline their jobs and make sure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. However, these people should never be the one to implement a new or updated policy.

You do need employees who are doing the work to be involved in creating and updating policy, since it directly affects their ability to do their jobs. A practice administrator can sit with affected employees and have a brainstorming session. Make it fun, 15 to 30 minutes long, and make sure the administrator walks away with a very clear understanding of the overall complaint or problem to be resolved. The practice administrator can then present three ideas to fully resolve the issue to the CEO or operations manager, who will have the bigger picture in mind and can create an updated or new practice policy.

Overall, it's important that you share your vision with your staff, allow them to make suggestions, and then be sure you have a responsible manager implementing those polices. Everyone has great ideas, but if you do not have someone actually doing the work to implement those policies, it really won't help your business.